30 June 2018

Why I Take PRIDE

Pride 2018 wraps today.

So naturally it's a good time to talk about me. 😊

Very soon the social media avatars will switch from heart-shaped rainbows to logos with patriotic overlays. Marketing teams will applaud themselves for their inclusive lip-service without acknowledging their own blatant pandering. June will end. Pride 2018 will be over. We'll bring other issues forward and pledge to fight all the good fights.

I enjoy going out for Pride, smiling in the sunshine and doing my level best to radiate love. Pride--the celebration of queer people--is extremely important to me. And I've never explained why. It's actually never even crossed my mind. But this year I felt like switching it up. So gather 'round friends, as I have tales to tell.

I mean it's not just a party.
But it is a party.

I hung out with lesbians before it was cool--and way before I knew what that meant. I remember gatherings of women. I remember watching friendship. I remember witnessing love. I remember being spoiled. I remember being in Vanessa's kitchen after she got a single cross earring just like George Michael. I remember group gatherings without any self-identified men. I remember Vanessa and Shelia and Linda and how they made my mother laugh.

In high school I remember "gay" being used and not understanding it was meant to be negative. I understood it as a declaration or as gossip--but never as an insult. (I was younger than my classmates and blessedly oblivious to social cues.) It didn't occur to me to be cruel. It seemed to me to be gay was to be different. And since I had been labeled different by every metric applied, I decided to align myself with "gay." There. Case closed. It was a decision rooted in logic that didn't have any consequences. I went to college as self-assured as any 16 year old could be.

College introduced me to some of the struggle. My parents had raised me on the realities of racism and sexism but in college I learned there were people whose families outright denied them. I learned people saw queer as not just "bad," but as an absolute worst outcome. It did not compute.

At the same time changes were happening at home. I realized it wasn't just other people who had those kinds of families. I witnessed the struggle for understanding, then for acceptance. I saw rejection and derision. Imagine finally loving yourself and having people turn away from you. Imagine having that which you are be used as a slur and wondering if it's true. I'll never experience that anxiety of coming out. But to me, it seems exceedingly brave.

I participate in Pride because I am proud. I'm proud of the women who first showed me the strength of female friendships. I'm proud of the men who taught me not to be afraid of using my voice. I'm proud of the lesbian, gay, and trans people in my life for unapologetically being themselves. (If I make bi, ace or aro friends, I'll be proud of them too.) I'm proud to be capable of offering support. I was proud to be a black female face waving from a corporate float. I'm proud of all the "different" people who decide to stand together in love.

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